Fitch affirms Acenden's UK primary & special servicer ratings
March 8 (Reuters) - (The following statement was released by the rating agency) Fitch Ratings has affirmed Acenden Limited's residential mortgage servicer ratings as follows: UK Primary (Prime) Servicer Rating affirmed at 'RPS2+' UK Primary (Sub-prime) Servicer Rating affirmed at 'RPS2+' UK Special Servicer Rating affirmed at 'RSS2' The servicer ratings reflect Acenden's continued strong internal audit and risk management framework. This is considered to be market leading among servicing peers and provides Acenden with a strong governance structure and high levels of quality control. The primary and special servicing ratings take into consideration the changes in the senior management team over the past 12-18 months. At the time of writing, the departed Chief Operating Officer (who left in September 2012), Commercial Director (who left in March 2012) and IT Director (who left in June 2012) have not been directly replaced. A Business Origination and Development Director, with a wider mandate than the former role of Commercial Director, joined Acenden in August 2012. Acenden has advised Fitch that a new COO will start shortly, whilst a new Chief Information Officer is due to start in April 2013. The special servicer rating reflects Acenden's proactive approach to the effective management of impaired loans and choosing the correct form of rehabilitation available to the borrower via the development of its BestStrategy tool. By developing this tool, Fitch believes that Acenden has demonstrated an understanding of the need for a tool that acts in the best interests of both the borrower and the client when providing a loan rehabilitation option. In the 12 months to 30 June 2012, average training hours for operational staff members stood at 17.9 hours - this is significantly lower than the Fitch benchmark of 40 hours per annum and rated peers. Newly hired operational staff averaged a low 27.9 hours. Fitch would view positively an increased emphasis on training in these areas. However, Acenden has focused its attention on training for the management team. This has led to an increase in average training hours to 52.3 hours for this team. When Acenden made the required regulatory changes to how mortgage administration fees (other amounts owed) were dealt with back in 2010, it did not update its reporting for securitisations to reflect these changes. This led to the relative arrears performance appearing worse than was actually the case. To clarify the situation, Acenden has now added additional delinquency performance data to its investor reports which show the arrears position from the borrower's perspective, consistent with the FSA's published cash allocation prioritisation. Fitch believes that the most recent data available shows the changes. This has brought the performance of Acenden's loans more in line with other similar non-conforming transactions, whilst the additional reporting itself is now on the same basis as other servicers/issuers. As of 30 June 2012, Acenden's servicing portfolio totalled GBP5.88bn and comprised 69,039 loans. This has declined from GBP6.27bn in December 2010, although an additional portfolio of second charge mortgages from a new client was boarded in February 2013. Fitch considers it important that Acenden arrests the reduction in assets under management. The agency also believes it is important for Acenden to demonstrate its ability to successfully service more third-party assets. Fitch employed its global and UK servicer rating criteria in analysing the servicer's operations and financial condition, with the former criteria including a comparison of similar UK servicers as part of the review process.